Microsoft Makes Some Volume Licensing Changes

Microsoft announced Volume Licensing program changes Tuesday that supposedly simplify matters for IT shops, as well as hosting providers.

Most of the changes are described in a Microsoft-produced Q&A with Joe Matz, corporate vice president of worldwide licensing and pricing at Microsoft.

One of those new programs is called "Microsoft Enrollment for Application Platform" (EAP). It will bundle licensing for the following products: SQL Server, BizTalk Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Visual Studio, and Dynamics xRM. This particular licensing option will be available Oct. 1, 2009.

Another new licensing program is called "Microsoft Enrollment for Core Infrastructure." This program, which also will be available Oct. 1, offers a package that includes "Windows Server, Microsoft System Center for server management and Microsoft Forefront Client Security," according to the Q&A. Matz claims that this program simplifies licensing for customers because Microsoft will just charge on a "per-process basis."

"Previously, customers would have purchased our infrastructure technologies using a combination of licensing models including per server, per processor, per Operating System Environment and subscription," Matz explained in the Q&A.

Enterprise Agreement: It's Complicated
The new "enrollment" software licensing packages will be offered through Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement (EA) program. IT shops that choose EA licensing face some complicated decision-making, depending on the fine print, according to Paul DeGroot, research vice president and channel licensing strategies analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

"An EA's main focus is desktop software, not servers," DeGroot explained via e-mail. "You can buy servers in an EA but you won't necessarily get the best discounts, and many customers buy servers through a separate Select or Open agreement."

In addition, EAP will require adding the Software Assurance (SA) option to the licensing plan. While EAP licensing could save organizations money, much depends on their upgrade plans further down the road.

"You do have to pay SA (25 percent of the license price each year), so if you would normally upgrade your servers every four years, the decision will be trickier," DeGroot explained.

He also noted that EAP licensing will work better for IT shops that use all Microsoft products. It might not be the licensing option of choice for those wanting to use a mix of Microsoft, Linux-based and Oracle solutions, for instance. IT shops that don't spend much on servers may not meet the initial purchase requirements of EA licensing, he added.

EAP is actually an improvement over an older Application Platform Agreement (APA), which wasn't sold through Microsoft's partner channel, DeGroot explained. EAP is aimed at smaller customers and will be sold through the channel. It features a "lower initial commitment than the APA does," DeGroot stated, and will permit upgrades to older servers that weren't covered by APA or SA.

If these licensing details seem complex, Directions on Microsoft offers two-day boot camp events to help people understand Microsoft's licensing. The consulting firm plans to offer new boot camp sessions this fall in Chicago, as well as on the West Coast sometime in early 2010, DeGroot said.

Microsoft offers some resources to help organizations figure out its software licensing plans. One of them is an online tool called the "Microsoft License Advisor" (MLA), which asks users questions to determine a licensing plan. DeGroot said that the MLA is "a good start" on Microsoft's part, but it's best to have some knowledge before using it.

"The MLA is a useful tool, but it's one of those products (like grammar checkers) where if you don't already know a lot about the subject, you can't fully interpret the answers you get," he explained.

New VDI Licensing
Those wanting to use Microsoft's products to support desktop virtualization infrastructure (VDI) will have two new licensing options scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the Windows virtualization team blog. The options--"Microsoft VDI Standard Suite" and "Microsoft VDI Premium Suite"--will be designed to reflect Microsoft's Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license.

Microsoft suggests that basing these two new options on the VECD license will simplify matters for customers because VECD is a device-based license.

"As with VECD, the number of VDI Suite licenses equals the total number of client devices that accesses the VDI environment," the team blog explains.

For the VDI Standard Suite, Microsoft plans to charge "$21 per year per device."

The two VDI Suite licenses cover the following software: "Hyper-V Server, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Operations Manager, Remote Desktop Services (CAL) and MDOP [Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack]," according to the blog. The Premium Suite adds use rights for "Remote Desktop Services (RDS) as well as App-V for RDS," the blog adds.

SPLA Essentials
Lastly, Microsoft announced a new Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) partner program for small-to-medium organizations providing hosting services. The new "SPLA Essentials" offering "is a simplified version of the SPLA that covers basic program rights with an easy online experience to enroll and manage software licenses," according to Matz.

The details weren't spelled out in Microsoft's Q&A.

In addition, Microsoft plans to extend Windows Server rights under the SPLA based on the "type of service partners provide (outsourcing and non-outsourcing)," Matz explained. Another benefit for SPLA licensees is that Microsoft will also let its SPLA partners user earlier versions of Microsoft software.

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